HI’s cut of $6B hemp crop needs non-paranoid governor, new State manager, smart advisers

Every member of Hawaii’s 2019 Legislature – Democratic and Republican – voted to pass the industrial hemp bill. Governor Ige vetoed it, against the will of the people and lawmakers. 

Senate Bill 1353 would have established a strong, thriving hemp program for Hawaii’s farmers– a $1 billion-a-year national industry that’s forecast to reach $6 billion in some three years. Following Federal law, the bill called for one yearly inspection of hemp crops, mirroring the policy of other mainland states. 

Attempting to explain his veto, the politician claimed that since our ideal climate and soil can produce more than one crop yearly – a rare growing condition giving Hawaii the envied economic edge over all other hemp-producing states in the U.S. – our own famers would therefore plant “pot” after their once-yearly hemp crop inspections were done. 

Besides publicly and globally stating that he believes the worst about our island farmers, the governor apparently – after years of being told otherwise – exhibits the inability to comprehend or chooses to ignore that hemp and pot are different. 

Hemp pollen reduces the “high”-producing chemical content of pot; therefore, pot farmers who need the high chemical content in their plants absolutely avoid being anywhere near industrial hemp plants. The two crops are incompatible; placing them near each other destroys the crop’s value and revenue.

Standing in the Dark Ages among mainland ag departments, Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture encouraged the governor’s veto, and partnered with representatives from the State Attorney General’s office leading up to the veto.

On the mainland, farmers are making as much as $40,000 an acre growing industrial hemp. 

Hawaii’s incredibly frustrated farmers – desperate to make an honest living and some barely hanging on economically – are stymied by Hawaii’s Ag Department in simply getting a permit to grow. Local farmers deserve a better hemp program manager! One exists! The University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) has grown hemp in its research fields and knows the value of this burgeoning crop. 

The hemp program must be moved from the State Ag Department to CTAHR so Hawaii’s farmers can work with a supportive agency and benefit from this profitable crop. 

Legislation is being prepared for the 2020 Session to implement this transfer.

Researchers at CTAHR have already found a connection between hemp and anti-obesity, a link that could reduce diabetes. This research can progress once CTAHR is in charge of the Hemp Program. 

Do some people need to be reminded an umpteenth time? Hemp is used to make rope, shoes, food, clothing, paper, bioplastics, insulation, construction materials and biofuel. Its protein content nearly matches soybeans and it contains superfood benefits. Audi, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen now use hemp to build their vehicles. Environmentally friendly hemp leeches impurities out of wastewater, cleans toxins from the land and removes contaminants from Chernobyl’s soil following its nuclear disaster. None of these hemp products get anyone high.  Governor, are you listening?